How the brain processes different dimensions of argument structure complexity

Evidence from fMRI

Aya Meltzer-Asscher*, Jennifer E Mack, Elena Barbieri, Cynthia K Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Verbs are central to sentence processing, as they encode argument structure (AS) information, i.e., information about the syntax and interpretation of the phrases accompanying them. The behavioral and neural correlates of AS processing have primarily been investigated in sentence-level tasks, requiring both verb processing and verb-argument integration. In the current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we investigated AS processing using a lexical decision task requiring only verb processing. We examined three aspects of AS complexity: number of thematic roles, number of thematic options, and mapping (non)canonicity (unaccusative vs. unergative and transitive verbs). Increased number of thematic roles elicited greater activation in the left posterior perisylvian regions claimed to support access to stored AS representations. However, the number of thematic options had no neural effects. Further, unaccusative verbs elicited longer response times and increased activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus, reflecting the processing cost of unaccusative verbs and, more generally, supporting the role of the IFG in noncanonical argument mapping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Language
Volume142
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Fingerprint

Prefrontal Cortex
Reaction Time
brain
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Costs and Cost Analysis
Brain
evidence
activation
syntax
Argument Structure
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
interpretation
costs
Thematic
Unaccusative Verbs
Thematic Roles
Verbs
Activation
Verb Processing

Keywords

  • Alternating verbs
  • Argument structure
  • FMRI
  • Inferior frontal gyrus
  • Intransitive verbs
  • Reaction times
  • Syntactic movement
  • Transitive verbs
  • Unaccusative verbs
  • Unergative verbs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing

Cite this

Meltzer-Asscher, Aya ; Mack, Jennifer E ; Barbieri, Elena ; Thompson, Cynthia K. / How the brain processes different dimensions of argument structure complexity : Evidence from fMRI. In: Brain and Language. 2015 ; Vol. 142. pp. 65-75.
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How the brain processes different dimensions of argument structure complexity : Evidence from fMRI. / Meltzer-Asscher, Aya; Mack, Jennifer E; Barbieri, Elena; Thompson, Cynthia K.

In: Brain and Language, Vol. 142, 01.03.2015, p. 65-75.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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